One of the most interesting exercises that we undertook soon after entering the digital healthcare space, was a survey of healthcare practitioners on the use of technology. This was done to understand their perception of the benefits and challenges of using technology to enhance their clinical practice.

The survey was emailed to doctors in major metros in India and included twenty questions establishing their background and demographics, attitudes and usage of mobile technology in clinical practice as well as profiles of their patients and their practice.

For us, this survey was the first step in understanding the concerns and challenges that doctors face in using technology to provide better care for their patients. Despite a limited sample, our survey did represent a cross-section of specialties and doctors practicing across urban India. We had a limited response from doctors in the academic setting so the findings of this survey are more focused on learnings about private healthcare providers across India.

The analysis of the survey responses gave us three key sets of learnings, which we have shared below:

The first revelation was the wide spread use of electronic devices amongst most doctors as well as their patients. Many doctors who responded practiced at multiple clinics and catered to patients from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds, yet they estimated that nearly all patients owned and actively used their own mobile phones. However, for doctors, these devices were used most commonly for social communication (Email, chatting with family and friends, Internet browsing) and interacting with colleagues but seldom to communicate with their patients. It was reassuring for us to know that at least in urban India, the infrastructure for online and offline communication using mobile devices is fairly common.

The second realization was that despite the means being easily available, communication with patients before and in-between clinic visits was not a priority for most respondents. This could be attributed to their workload, lack of awareness about the impact as well as a lack of awareness on how to leverage mobile communication services for this. Our survey clearly showed that communication between visits was likely to reduce the number of missed appointments by as much as 28%. These are patients that doctors have an ongoing relationship with, so keeping in touch in-between visits is an easy way to bring them back for scheduled appointments and improving outcomes.

The last and the most significant learning from the survey was that most people were very open to using technology to enhance their efficiency and improve the healthcare experience but they just need to know how! When discussing technology, there was definitely a lack of awareness of the different ways in which it can be used to optimize clinical practice for mutual benefit of doctors and patients. Most doctors assumed the use of technology to mean being available for patients on email/mobile phones all the time, which would eat into their own time. The other concerns included lack of data privacy, not wanting to share sensitive information on electronic media and not diluting their practice by reaching out to too many people. This learning convinced us that there was a significant opportunity in developing customized solutions that engage patients in a sustained manner on behalf of doctors.

Aditi is a clinical research professional-turned healthcare entrepreneur and co-founded Mirai Health along with her husband Aakash. Mirai Health is their third baby and follows the birth of their two boys, Siddhant and Samin. Besides work, Aditi is passionate about Hindustani classical music and yoga.